There are so many exciting places to visit in the United States. For us having the focus of doing a culinary adventure sounded very appealing. My husband had heard of Asheville, NC as being a big foodie community. Asheville is also home to the Biltmore Estate a gorgeous castle built by George Vanderbilt III, fashioned after some of the French Loire Valley castles. Asheville is located in the western part of North Carolina near the Blue Ridge Mountains. We decided to drive to Asheville, NC from our home in West Chester, PA. The drive was approximately 9 ½ hours long and we split it into 2 days. The drive took us from Pennsylvania through some very scenic areas of the states of Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Tennessee. We had a wonderful opportunity to enjoy Southern hospitality.
Our first stop included stopping for dinner in New Market, VA in a 57-year old restaurant called Southern Kitchen. We thoroughly enjoyed a dinner of peanut soup, southern fried chicken, and not-to-be missed peanut butter cream pie. After enjoying a wonderful dinner we continued on to Christianburg, VA to spend the night. The next morning we were only 3 ½ hours away from Asheville. Asheville, NC has a regional airport and can also be reached by airplane. Asheville is approximately a 4-hour drive from Raleigh, the capital of NC located closer to the center of the state. North Carolina also boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. With so much to do and see, the state of North Carolina can be a wonderful destination visit. Keep in mind that North Carolina is home to some excellent universities like the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University, North Carolina State University, Wake Forest University, and Elon University. So if college visits bring you here, make sure to extend your visit and see more of the state.
We arrived in Asheville on a Monday and went straight to our hotel to check-in at The Inn on Biltmore Estate located on the grounds of the Biltmore Castle. We knew our hotel room would not be ready until later so we dropped off our bags and drove into the town of Asheville.
Asheville has become a mecca for foodies, where restaurant chefs have the focus of farm to table. The other great attribute of this city is that it offers a very international selection of cuisine. The city has also become an artist community boasting many galleries and exhibits. We enjoyed our first meal in Asheville at a Latin American restaurant called Chorizo, where we savored a mouth-watering arepa stuffed with shredded pork. We then met up with our foodie walking tour, Eating Asheville. Our wonderful tour guide, Cecily, took us to 6 different venues while also sharing with us some of the city history. Our stops included: The Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar, Chai Pani (Indian street food), Zambras (tapas with a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern twist), Table (farm-to-table seasonal), The Gourmet Chip Company (gourmet potato chips), and The French Broad Chocolate Lounge (a to die for chocolatier). At every stop we enjoyed delectable samplings of the food and drink. What a wonderful way to get introduced to the local food scene. I highly recommend that you sign up for foodie tours in the various cities you visit. It’s great entertainment. Cecily also recommended that instead of having a meal at just one restaurant, to try restaurant hopping while sampling their appetizers and drinks. We tried this strategy very successfully on one of our nights in Asheville. This allowed us to sample a variety of restaurants in a short time frame.
Our stay at the Biltmore Inn was wonderful. The hotel sits on top of a hill with beautiful sweeping views of the 8,000-acre Biltmore Estate. The Biltmore Castle & Estate was built by George Vanderbilt III. It was Vanderbilt’s dream to make the estate self-sustaining. When it was first built in 1895 the estate operated a diary farm. Today, the estate operates a very successful winery. Although, some of the grapes are grown on the property, many are purchased from other regions of the United States. The Winery is one of the most visited wineries in the country. The Biltmore Inn offers various wonderful choices for dining and serves a lovely Afternoon Tea. Dare I say, that the afternoon tea rivaled some of the best London high tea experiences.
During our stay at the Biltmore Inn we took advantage of some of the many activities they offer. We enjoyed a session of Sporting Clays. In the picture I am shooting a 20 gauge double barrel shot gun. At first I was a little intimidated seeing the shotgun. With the coach’s guidance I found myself holding and shooting the shotgun. The instructor uses a computerized system to propel 6-inch clay discs from different locations into the air that you then attempt to hit. And to my greatest surprise I actually hit the clays. Even my husband was shocked. Annie Oakley, move over!!! Another fun activity is the Land Rover driving school where you get instruction on off-road driving. Other activities include: fly fishing, horseback riding, hiking, river trips, Segway tours, biking, and carriage rides. There is plenty for the whole family to enjoy.
One very special activity that we did was a Private Food Demonstration that I arranged through the Biltmore Catering Department. A wonderful menu was especially prepared for us and demonstrated by Chef Kirk together with his sous chef and pastry chef. In addition, we had the wonderful service of two waitresses that made sure the champagne and wines were appropriately matched. All of this took place in one of their catering kitchens. The session was an amazing display of cuisine by a professional and friendly crew offering us an experience and lunch to remember.
The Biltmore Estate is still privately owned by the Vanderbilt Family and employs 1700 people and is visited by more than one million guests a year. We enjoyed a wonderful tour of the Biltmore Castle and its extensive gardens. The audio tour guide provided with the admission ticket is a great way to enjoy the property and learn its history. We really enjoyed the Biltmore Estate and hope to return again someday.
For more information on foodie tour in Asheville go to: http://eatingasheville.com/
For more information on the Biltmore Estate go to: http://www.biltmore.com